Nights In

Interview: The Academic

Unless you have been living under a rock, it’s no secret that The Academic are rocking the world of music.

The four piece indie rock band have a huge summer ahead of them, much further afield than Killucan or Rochfortbridge mind you!

In the past few weeks, not only have the band made their debut television appearance on The Late Late show, but their new single ‘Different’ has reached over 200,000 plays on Spotify, despite only being released last Friday.

The Late Late show, has always been one of Ireland’s most watched TV shows and when the guys got the chance to appear, they jumped at the opportunity.

According to Matthew Murtagh, lead guitarist with the band: “It was very nerve racking, we took our place before the commercial break and it was the longest break of my life.”

“I think overall it went really well, the crowd enjoyed it and there’s been a good reaction online since, which is great,” added frontman Craig Fitzgerald.

The Academic closed the show with their debut single ‘Different’ which was both written and recorded in January of this year.

“It was the first song we finally felt really good about and we decided it was the strongest song to go with,” Craig said.

The Academic have been writing songs since they were just teenagers of thirteen or fourteen years, but as always ‘Different’ was a group effort.

“The basis starts with me, the song idea, lyrics and chords but then we bring it to the band. Stephen writes his parts, Matthew does his and Dean does his, then it’s not one person’s song it’s everybody’s,” Craig continued.

Songs don’t usually come together that easily but ‘Different’ “happened naturally, it didn’t take very long”.

The song is personal but designed for everybody: “Every song we have is about somebody or something, it’s like you sit back and watch things happen then you just write about it,” the singer explained.

One line in the song ‘taking your clothes off’’ didn’t go down too well with one particular groupie.

“My Mam got upset about that, but it’s not what it actually sounds like, it’s more about being comfortable with somebody,” the 21 year old said.

The Academic have been picking up radio play at home and abroad and are currently making their way to the top of the national airplay chart.

They have gained support from some of the Europe’s top DJ’s and radio stations including BBC Radio 1, XFM, 2FM and Today FM, to name but a few.

Stephen Murtagh, the bands youngest member said: “The first few times we heard it on the radio it was weird and then we heard it on BBC Radio 1,  that was one of the most surreal moments we’ve ever had, that was cool.”

Matt however just can’t bear listening to it on air: “I don’t listen to it, I just can’t. When you’re recording the song you hear it so many times and when you come out of the studio some of the magic is taken away.

“Playing it live is a completely different story though, you still get that same energy, it’s how you felt when you first played it,” he said.

The band are currently on their first Irish headline tour which included a show at ‘Smiddy’s’ Mullingar on Saturday 25th of April.

Bass guitarist Stephen admitted that a hometown show is always brilliant and probably, “less nerve racking than the others.”

“It’s quite weird when you look in the crowd and you know a lot of them, but there’s a sense of security in that, they’re there to support you. Whereas in Galway or Cork there’s not as many familiar faces,” the 19 year old said.

The band originally started out as ‘The Frescoes’ and have made a few changes since then.
“We were The Frescoes for quite a while, Dean wasn’t involved at that stage, he was busy with other acts and touring around Ireland. The Frescoes was the start of it, we were writing songs, bad songs,” laughed Craig.

According to Matt: “We were only fourteen but even then we were writing, you have to. Not every song you write is going to be great, you have to write the bad ones to get to the good ones.”

The name The Academic is taken from the book The Catcher in the Rye.

“It was the first book that helped me write songs which is cool,” said Craig.

Sometimes having two brothers in a band isn’t always a good idea, but according to Craig: “When I met Matthew and Stephen they were brothers, now they’re not really brothers they are bandmates.”

Stephen joked: “The only difference between me, Matthew, Dean and Craig is that Matthew and I go home to the same house, but sometimes even Craig comes too.”

It’s clear that the lads, “don’t have a Gallagher brother relationship at all. We all get on great 99.9% of the time.”

The Academic have committed to music making full time now and firmly believe that leaving college was the right thing to do.

“People probably feel like it’s a bigger deal than it is. You can go to college at any time,” according to Stephen.

Matt believes that, “college can wait, we need to seize this opportunity now when we are young.”

The boys are all past pupils of St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Rochfortbridge and claim that’s where it all began.

“We have great memories from the Bridge, musically it gave us great opportunities,” Stephen said.

Their first official gig was at a Battle of the Bands night held in the school’s assembly hall. Craig, Matthew and Dean finished school there three years ago, but their former teachers even come to the gigs.

The band have a summer full of festivals both here and abroad including Live at Glasgow and Indiependence in Cork.

“We love playing outdoors, with your own headline show people are there to see you, but with a festival you win new fans,” Matt said.

Stephen added: “There’s always that buzz of will we win over the crowd?”

The Academic have been playing together for almost ten years now which is incredible seeing as that’s almost half their lifetime, but they have a lot of people to thank.

“Matthew and Stephen’s Dad Finn probably drove us the distance of the world in the first few years before we could drive,” frontman Craig admitted.

But family and friends aren’t the only ones showing their support for the local band; Mullingar music moguls Bressie and Niall Horan also showed their support on Twitter recently.

“It’s so great that other Mullingar musicians are willing to champion each other and that’s why Mullingar has such a great music scene. It’s crazy that the likes of Bressie and Niall Horan are giving us shoutouts,” Matt said.

When asked where they see themselves in ten years’ time Stephen didn’t hesitate in replying “the Bahamas,” and I’d very well believe it.

For any of you reading this aspiring to be just like the Academic one day, here’s how:

“Just constantly write, play live as much as you can. You can rehearse ten times in a rehearsal room, but you’ll gain your best experience from playing live and that’s how you do it.

“Have a good hairstyle too,” Matt finished.

The Academic will be following up their debut single ‘Different’ with their first EP very soon and are closing their headline tour in The Workman’s Club in Dublin on Friday 22nd of May.